NEW YORK CITY’S TOP 10 UNDERGROUND BARS

GUEST BLOG POST WRITTEN BY HEATHER SHIMMIN (Secret Central Park Guide)

Underneath the hustle and bustle of New York City is an intriguing world of subterranean drinkeries. These spaces are non-touristy, visually interesting, offer more than just a libation, and are just as varied and surprising as Manhattanites themselves.

THE TIPPLER
425 West 15th Street, New York, NY 10014
212.206.0000
www.thetippler.com

A stone’s throw from the Highline, in the fashionable Meatpacking district, is The Tippler.  The entrance is marked by a large marquee-style open sign and a small, understated metal plaque on the south side of Chelsea Market, one of the greatest food halls in the world.   A 1920s-style mural adorns the stairwell which leads down into the bowels of this former warehouse. Exposed red brick, cast iron embellishments, and plush oriental rugs immediately beckon the visitor to sit down, have a tipple, and forget that it’s the 21st century.  The Tippler offers a decent selection of mainstream beers and liquor, but the real joy is in their cocktails such as the Chelsea Smash (vodka, lemon, mint, honey, Branca Menta) or the Something Wicked (fennel seed-infused tequila, grapefruit, lime, crème de mûre, ginger beer).  Or go all out and try a Lushie, a frozen blended cocktail.  Go early to get a table and enjoy a little corner of the past.

 

JIMMY’S NO. 43
43 East 7th Street, New York, NY 10003
212. 982.3006
www.jimmysno43.com

This surprisingly spacious basement bar in the East Village is warm and inviting, both in atmosphere and clientele. The bartenders are friendly and knowledgeable, the crowd local and unpretentious.  Long oak tables can accommodate a large group or saddle up to the bar and make some new friends.

Owned by chef, restaurateur, and social entrepreneur Jimmy Carbone, this pub reflects Jimmy’s love of beer and gregarious personality. Jimmy’s stocks over 50 different beers (mainly German, Belgian and local brews), and the rotating draught selection features rare, hard-to-find beers in New York City.  Not a beer fan?  Don’t fret; the cidre list is just as long as the wine list.  This gastropub also has an amazing rotating menu and a farm to table philosophy, serving the best of what’s in season from local farmers.  One menu staple is their non-to-be-missed bratwürst.

 

PDT
113 St Marks, New York, NY 100009
Enter through Crif Dogs
212.614.0386
www.pdtnyc.com

PDT, short for Please Don’t Tell, is a hidden gem in the East Village.  PDT is the secret cocktail lounge annex of Crif Dogs, a hot dog joint serving deep fried New Jersey-style franks. Accessible only through a vintage phone booth within Crif Dogs, this sexy speakeasy is a sharp contrast to the diner-style restaurant at the fore. Exposed red brick, low, wood paneled ceilings, and a taxidermied deer head on the wall only adds to its charm.  Libation offerings include a thoughtful selection of beer and wine as well as expertly crafted classic cocktails.  An abbreviated menu is available at the bar or patrons can order from Crif Dog’s full menu next door. Very popular is the New Yorker, the only grilled, all-beef frank on the menu.

This secret speakeasy is actually not so secret.  The wait for a table can be as long as an hour, so reservations are recommended.

SAKE BAR DECIBEL
240 East 9th Street, New York, NY 10003
212.979.2733
www.sakebardecibel.com

A small red and white sign is all that alerts the thirsty traveler to its existence in this Japanese pocket of the East Village.  A flight of rickety stairs and a tattered door lead to a somewhat sketchy reception area. Sake Bar Decibel is what some would call a ‘hole in the wall’ – which is not necessarily a bad thing.  Low ceilings, dimly lit, and sake bottles occupying every available nook and cranny do not scream posh but the crowds do confirm good food and drink. They carry a modest but delicious selection of Japanese whiskey, good beers, and over 80 different rice wines, offering something new for even the most seasoned sake sipper.

 

SWEETWATER SOCIAL
643 Broadway, New York, NY 10012
Enter through Bleecker Kitchen and Co.
212.253.7467
m.mainstreethub.com/sweetwatersocial

An unmarked, black door inside Bleecker Kitchen and Co. leads to the ultimate Man Cave, complete with shuffleboard, a fußball table, a pinball machine, and an enormous television for sports viewing.  The oriental rugs and leather sofas give the space a basement family room vibe.  With its exposed brick and subway tile, this bar truly embraces its subterranean-ness.  Sweetwater Social draws big crowds for American football, hockey, basketball, and baseball games.  When it’s quiet, it’s a great place for a bourbon and a chin wag.

 

PRAVDA
281 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012
Near Prince Street
212.226.4944
www.pradvanewyork.com

Pravda is an underground vodka and caviar bar in Nolita.  Named after a popular soviet newspaper in the U.S.S.R., Pravda means true.  With cream-colored plastered walls, fixtures modeled after Russian street lights, Manhattan chairs, and curved, red banquettes, the Cold War has never looked so hot. With over 70 vodkas in stock and two pages of cocktails – not to mention the beer and wine list – the only question is, with or without caviar.

 

THE FOLLY
92 West Houston Street, New York, NY 10012
646.726.7470
www.follynyc.com

A half dozen steps down from busy West Houston Street is The Folly, a nautical-themed bar from the creators of The Brooklyneer (a gastropub serving artisanal food and drink that is made in Brooklyn).  Its rustic, pirate ship décor may sound pastiche, but its tasteful restraint and execution works in its favor; the rope chandelier, a steamer trunk table, and sketches of old medical anatomy as wallpaper are swashbucklingly chic.  A boat’s ribs and keel line the ceiling, further enhancing the feeling of being inside the hull of a ship.

The Folly offers a modest but well selected list of beer and wine (including Old Speckled Hen on draught, impossible to find in New York City) and a food menu of mostly seafood dishes, including Kombucha Oyster Shooters (Mombucha Ginger Mint, Pink Peppercorn Rim) and Grilled Octopus and Potato Confit Skewers.

 

THE RAINES LAW ROOM
48 West 17th Street, New York, NY 100011
212.242.0600
www.raineslawroom.com

Not far from Union Square is The Raines Law Room, its entrance marked only by a small gold plaque and doorbell.  The rather plain, unassuming façade is a stark contrast to the rich, Victorian-chic interior.  The barmaids make black lace modern and sexy again, and elevate the cocktail to something much higher than just a drink.

Raines Law was a legislative attempt to reduce alcohol consumption in New York State in the late 19th century by limiting the sale of alcohol on Sundays to hotels.  The state defined a hotel as a business with a minimum of ten bedrooms for lodging that served sandwiches with its liquor.  Saloons quickly exploited this loophole and soon hundreds of saloons were operating as “hotels.” Many of these “Raines Law Hotels” were used by prostitutes and unmarried couples, skyrocketing the state’s prostitution rate by the early 20th century.  Some saloons served “brick sandwiches” (an actual brick between two slices of bread) or fake sandwiches used for display only, to comply with the law.

The Raines Law Room can get very busy, so reservations – allowed on Sundays, Mondays, and Tuesdays only – are highly recommended.  Also, in order to maintain the bar’s intimacy and serene mood, parties are limited to six people.

 

TROY LIQUOR BAR
675 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10012
Enter on West 13th Street
212.699.2410
www.troyliquorbar.com

Below Bill’s Burger, two blocks from the High Line, is the catacomb-like Troy Liquor Bar.  This cavernous space is filled with alcoves and private tables, soft chairs and coffee tables.  As a change from the posh bars with high covers and pricey cocktails that litter the Meatpacking District, Troy Liquor Bar is unpretentious and relaxing. Equipped with pool table, Pac Man arcade, fußball, and a giant black horse, there is plenty to amuse even the most ADHD-afflicted guest.  Weekends are usually very busy, but weeknights are a bit calmer, perfect for chatting into the wee hours.

 

PULQUERIA
11 Doyers Street, New York, NY 10013
212.237.3099
www.pulquerianyc.com

Down a flight of steps and behind a turquoise door is something quite unusual; a Mexican bar in the heart of Chinatown.  No sign, no indication that delicious tacos and great happy hour specials are concealed within a sea of dumplings and dim sum.  Pulqueria offers a staggering variety of tequilas and mezcal in a modern, Mexico City-esque space.

Pulqueria is on Doyers Street, a curved, 200 foot-long stretch named after the pub-owning Dutchman, Hendrik Doyer, who lived there in the 1790s.  In the 1930s, Doyers Street was nicknamed ‘The Bloody Angle’ after rival Chinese gangs massacred one another with hatchets in front of a theatre, which used to be next door to Pulqueria.  Some gang members escaped through secret tunnels underneath the theatre, which are rumored to still exist.  Doyers Street has seen many brawls and conflicts; in fact, a 1994 study revealed that more people had been murdered on Doyers Street than on any other street in America.   Today, however, it’s a quaint little byway with a barbershop and United States Post Office, revealing little evidence of its sordid past.

Getting to JFK on the Cheap!

Considering it is one of the world’s most used airports, it’s not that easy to get to.  And it sure as hell isn’t cheap.  I thought I was saving money when I went to long term parking on a recent trip.  Turns out it was about the same as a round trip cab fare from Park Slope.  $102!  So, if you’re cheap like me, consider this:

The A Train to Howard Beach-JFK.  Then get on the Air Train for an additional $8.00.  Total cost-approximately $11 each way.  Allow an extra 30 minutes from the Howard Beach station to the terminal.

Same deal with the E, J, or Z trains to Sutphin Boulevard/Archer Avenue/JFK Airport stop.  The Air Train stop is Jamaica.  Again, allow 30 minutes from there to get to terminal.  About $11 each way.

I heart NYC

Why I Love New York City

“Living in New York must be so exciting,” friends from outside the city often remark. And they are right, it is exciting, even after 26 years residing here. I’ve lived in about a dozen apartments, moved from Manhattan to Brooklyn and back to Manhattan again. And, I’ve had twice as many jobs as apartments.

The view I am lucky to have in Manhattan!

Still I’m enthralled with New York City, thrilled by the frenetic energy, captivated the residents and our collective scrappiness in the face rent that is just too damn high, the artistic events on offer 24/7/365. I groove on the toughness–though not rudeness–of the folks I meet every single day on the streets, on the subway, in the stores, grabbing a cup in coffee shops and sitting next to me at live theatre, music, storytelling, comedy, and other events. These people, New Yorkers, are my people. I’ve been meeting more and more natives recently, but it’s also true a lot of folks come from elsewhere. Some come in search of fame and fortune, most come for a sense of freedom to express themselves in various ways that are not encouraged nor welcomed where they grew up, and most everyone I know likes the anonymity the city provides, at least sometimes.

Anonymity on the Cheap

Have we met before?

There’s definitely nothing like the “Big Apple” and taking a bite of it puts a spell on those who dare to do so. It’s the difficult lover you can’t leave, the too-expensive bling you buy anyhow, your eccentric aunt who dresses as she pleases and says exactly what she wants, or your outrageous, creative friend from high school who moved here to get out of their home town. And, even if you don’t have a friend like that, you will meet one here!

I’m so tired of those NYC v. LA lists! Even worse are those painfully angsty articles about people trying to “decide” to leave (really they’ve already decided, but want to get paid to write an article about it), or those who have left and want to burden us with how they are coming to terms with it and are oh, so glad they left.

I want to talk about what New York City means to me, someone who loves the place, with all of its flaws.

New York City Subway Platform

Please step aside and let the passengers off the train.

First, let’s talk about the subway. Sure, there are stalls and delays, and the weekends are all fucked up, and especially hard for visitors to understand. But, that’s because work is being done to improve the structure and therefore, the service. Of course, the price for a ride is too high, but folks, the NYC subway is so clean and runs so beautifully compared to just a few decades ago. And, may I remind you that the MTA is moving more than 5.5 million individuals around New York City and her boroughs EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. That’s a lot of people! And when a tourist asks directions on the subway, not only do they get an answer, they receive the assistance of many local riders, all of whom are convinced their route is the best way to get the visitor to their destination.

Building a a snowman in Times Square

Crossroads of the world.

On the day I am writing this, it happens to be snowing. Many New Yorkers seem to be afraid of snow, even though it snows here ever year. Activities today have been cancelled, and lots of folks who made plans with other folks are unwilling to fulfill them. But, other folks carry on, trudging through the slippery danger of un-shoveled sidewalks (there a law to do so, btw) and delighting in the white stuff.

There are the skyscrapers, the parks, the street art, the yellow (and green) taxis, and so much more! Local Expeditions has recently added several new tours to cover the bountiful urban beauty and rich history of this city. On our GATWAY: THE IMMIGRANTS tour we  walk through the Lower East Side, a district shows that within decades how the Irish Five Points became in turn the Jewish quarter, then Little Italy, now Chinatown and today’s Courthouse District. If you take the JACKIE ROBINSON’S BROOKLYN tour you’ll find out why no other major league team in 1947 was willing to sponsor a black man on the field–Brooklyn welcomed it! If you are appalled by the actions of our current 2017 POTUS like we are, you’d love our F@CK TR#MP: CHEAP ETHNIC EATS IN MIDTOWN foodie adventure where we’ll visit West African steam tables in Chelsea, food courts in Koreatown, Pakistani grills in NoMad, Indian buffets in Curry Hill, etc., etc. etc.  as long as your feet and stomachs hold out! And, if you are a romantic and like NYC love stories, check out the sneak-peek of our GOWANUS? YES, GO ON US!

And, there are the bodegas. And bodega cats. Both are staples of NYC life, especially in the boroughs. Recently someone posted a review on Yelp calling out a bodega cat. The response was swift, fierce, and very funny.

Photo of a cat

Everyone needs a job.

As a queer person, I love that NYC protects 31 gender identities. This is something that is extremely important in the current fascist political regime when our federal government, along with many states and cities, are passing laws allowing discrimination against transgender people, LGB folks, and other gender and sexual minorities.

Gender Identity Chart

Guide to NYC’s Protected Gender Identities

At the end of the day, New York City feeds my craving for living amongst like-minded creative folks. And, I don’t mean only artists and writers, but New Yorkers of all stripes who make it here despite all the obstacles.

To-Go Coffee Cup

No sugar? Say it twice. Say it loud. Say it clear. (The default is a “regular” which has two tablespoons and milk.)

That’s why I love New York City–it’s my one and only!

Logo for The New York Times Travel Show

Local Expeditions at The New York Times Travel Show!

Logo for The New York Times Travel Show

At the Javits Center, NYC

We are thrilled to be part of The New York Times Travel Show and if you are an attendee of the show, please take advantage of our 2-for-1 offer on all our tours from now until February 3rd.

Our guides will lead you off the beaten path to explore the nooks and crannies of NYC’s most interesting neighborhoods, including DUMBO, Gowanus, Williamsburg, Bushwick, Victorian Flatbush, and Park Slope in Brooklyn; Washington Heights, Hell’s Kitchen, the East Village, and the early morning flower district in Manhattan; and Flushing in Queens.

Check out a sneak peak of some of our tours:

Citibike DUMBO begins in Manhattan at a CitiBike kiosk near the Manhattan Bridge. We ride very slowly (this is not extreme sports) as the bike gives us an opportunity to get to DUMBO and enjoy some beautiful vistas and hear some stories along the way. This also gives you a chance to get used to our excellent CitiBike program so you can enjoy some of the city’s great bike paths on future trips to New York.

Go to Hell! See Hell’s Kitchen, New York’s most misunderstood neighborhood with our food enthusiast and local expert Ziggy.  Learn about the neighborhood’s complicated and violent history, where Irish gangs once ruled the streets. You’ll get to explore Hell’s Kitchen’s many secrets including gardens, churches, and many great eateries outside the tourist path.

Gowanus? Yes, Go On Us! From its humble beginnings as a meandering creek to a lush salt marsh dotted with gristmills, the Gowanus Canal and its surrounding neighborhood, has experienced a renaissance over the past several years. A thriving community of long-time residents (as well as newcomers who are drawn to the area’s gritty, industrial appeal) reside amongst the more than 300 artists who rent studio & gallery space in re-purposed factory buildings.

And these video sneak-peeks are just a sampling of a fantastic selection of expeditions such as:

And many more!

Check our calendar and sign up for a tour that strikes your fancy and bring a friend for free! And, don’t forget to stop by Booth 872 to say hello to us at The New York Times Travel Show 2017.

P.S. Do you like street art and graffiti? Check our a sampling of the visual feast you’ll see on our tours!

Independent Bookstore in New York City

Independent Bookstores in New York City

Bookstore

R.I.P.

With the venerable downtown Brooklyn bookstore BookCourt closing after 35 years, we are left wondering about the viability of independent booksellers, and of printed books as well. Whether the e-reader killed the printed book or Amazon.com has murdered independent bookstore viability, there are still many indie booksellers in New York City.

Strand Bookstore

New, used, and out-of-print books.

There are the behemoth independents, The Strand and McNally Jackson. And there are outposts of the national chain Barnes & Noble, though they have become fewer. But, there is nothing quite like browsing books in an intimate space carefully designed for the word-loving indie bookstore consumer.

Bookstore

They are also a publishing house.

Melville House Bookstore is housed a tiny storefront tucked into 58 John Street, around the corner from Brooklyn Roasting Company’s Cafe in DUMBO. In fact, there is a semi-secret passageway between Brooklyn Roasting and the bookstore! Melville House is an independent publisher with offices in Brooklyn and London and its publishing office is located behind the bookstore. Aside form its own imprint; Melville sells books from Akashic, PowerHouse, Archipelago, Ugly Duckling, Hanging Loose, Umbrage and many other local indie presses. This is a gem of a literary bookstore, a must for any bookworm visiting DUMBO. (In fact, two of our Local Expeditions tours stop at the Melville House Bookstore, CITIBIKE DUMBO and FERRY TO DUMBO.)

Bluestockings Bookstore

They even carry alternative menstrual products and other oddly hard-to-find good things! No joke!

Bluestockings is a 100% volunteer-powered and collectively owned radical bookstore, fair-trade cafe, and activist center. Bluestocking has been a staple on the Lower East Side for the past 15 years and has changed and morphed, remodeled and upgraded, and now has an online bookstore component as well. Bluestocking’s inventory focuses on works by feminists, queers and writers of color and books, chapbooks, and other materials questioning the status quo. Bluestockings actively supports all movements challenging all systems of oppressions. Just inside the bookstore is a small cafe with free trade coffee and vegan pastries as well as a tiny restroom. The space hosts nightly events with a suggested donation of $5, with no one turned away for lack of funds.

Indie Bookstore

They also partner with their neighbor BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music).

Greenlight Bookstore in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, has expanded, and its latest outpost recently opened in the Prospect Lefferts Gardens section of Flatbush. Born of an outpouring of community support, including winning a business plan competition, garnering individual and organizational donations, investments by local nonprofits, loans from community lenders and more, founders Rebecca Fitting and Jessica Stockton Bagnulo opened Greenlight in the fall of 2009 and the rest, as they say, is history. Greenlight is now the official vendor of the Brooklyn Academy of Music and has a small kiosk inside BAM to augment their literary and other events, and even partners with BAM for part of their programming.

Indie bookstore in Manhattan

Kick your French up a notch.

Travel bookstore and language school, Idlewild Books, took its moniker from the original name for New York International Airport, which was renamed JFK in December 1963. Originally opening in Manhattan’s Flatiron District, Idlewild’s two locations are now located in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village and Brooklyn’s Cobble, Hill. The premise of Idlewild is that “a novel or travelogue can be just as valuable a key to a place as any guidebook, and our well-read, well-traveled staff is happy to make reading recommendations for any traveler, book lover, or gift giver.” Additionally, all travel guidebooks are discounted by 10%.  The bookstore also hosts language classes in French, Spanish, Italian and German.

Indie Bookstore

Michael Cunningham calls it “One of the greatest bookstores on the face of the Earth.”

Greenwich Village favorite, Three Lives & Company is tucked into a small storefront on West 10th Street at the corner of Waverly Place. The bookstore specializes in “literary books that might otherwise be overlooked” and is frequented by many local writers as well as fans of literature.

Bookstore in Greenpoint BK

They even have a store in Jersey City.

WORD Bookstores started in Brooklyn and expanded to Jersey City. You can count on WORD to have the coolest book launches, readings, and panels in the borough. The store specializes in music-themed events and has hosted many celebrity music writers as well as up-and-coming local music makers and writers.

Indie Bookstore in Queens, NY

Go local in Queens.

Queens’ Astoria Bookshop is located under the elevated N/Q train stop. The shop hosts regular community events, a reading group, and features Queens writers among their stock. Astoria Bookshop stocks only new inventory and does not purchase or accept donations of used books.

Bookstore in Prospect Heights

Check out their talks, readings and book launches.

Meanwhile, Unnameable Books is a buyer and seller of both new and used books in the burgeoning retail scene on Vanderbilt Avenue in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. Local writers frequent Unnamble Books for out-of-print books and rare finds, while visitors to Brooklyn can be sure to recognize their favorite authors on the shelves.

Bookstore support LGBT Community

Get a latte in their lovely cafe.

Housing Works Bookstore Cafe is a community center in the downtown Manhattan area. The stock is all donated material and the space has events open to the public most nights. One hundred percent of profits go to Housing Works, a “healing community” and advocacy group dedicated to eradicating both homelessness and HIV/AIDS.

Open Book

Blast from the past.

Next time you’re in The Big Apple and get the hankering to go to a good ‘ole fashioned bookstore, #DoWhatLocalsDo and visit one of our neighborhood’s Independent Bookstores.

Skeleton

MUSEUMS: Off-the-Beaten-Track Finds in NYC

There are the Met and the MoMA, of course. And the Whitney, the Guggenheim and the Brooklyn Museum, which has raised its visibility and stature in recent years. But, plenty of other museums in New York City exist that are worth a visit. It’s not easy to ferret out what institutions are here, when they are open and where to find them, so we’ve put together this guide of some of the most interesting, important, and off-beat museums to seek out.

 

SQUAT, GARDEN AND MORE

 

Band in front of MoRUS

Reclaim it, people!

MoRUS, the Museum of Urban Reclaimed Space, is an effort of love, a small historical museum of grassroots activism run by volunteers. MoRUS documents “efforts to create community spaces on the Lower East Side, especially those that ‘reclaim’ space that has been taken over by city bureaucracies or corporations.” MoRUS also has exhibitions and educates about the “political implications of how social structures shape and control our space and take a long-term historical perspective on how the urban landscape evolves through cycles.” If you want to see NYC through the eyes of a LES (Lower East Side) activist, the Museum of Urban Reclaimed Space is the place for you! Located on the LES at 155 Avenue C (at E 10th Street), MoRUS asks for a $5 donation. Closed on Mondays, the museum is open 11AM-7PM Tuesday and Thursday-Sun and 11AM-3PM on Wednesdays.

 

LEARN ABOUT TALL BUILDINGS IN SINGLE VISIT

 

I found the Skyscraper Museum when I was making a NYC itinerary for friends from Copenhagen who are into architecture and engineering. It’s a cool place, billing itself as “the world’s first and foremost vertical metropolis” with lots of engineering history, urban planning information, design esoterica, and architectural models and displays to view – and you don’t have to strain your neck in the process! The Skyscraper Museum is located in Battery Park in lower Manhattan at 39 Battery Place. Museum and hours are 12-6 PM, Wednesday-Sunday. General admission is $5, $2.50 for students and seniors and all galleries and facilities are wheelchair accessible.

 

IT’S HERE IT’S QUEER

 

Leslie Lohman Museum Logo

Founded as a non-profit foundation in 1987 by Charles W. Leslie and Fritz Lohman

A good choice for anyone with an interest LGBTQ art and history, the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art is the prime forum in NYC for preserving and exhibiting LGBTQ art and artists. Located in SoHo, Leslie-Lohman, not only exhibits artwork, but also puts on plays, hosts storytelling series, film screenings, readings, and other LGBTQ-related events. The space houses a permanent collection comprised of 30,000 objects dating back to the 1600s. These two collections are stored in five locations and have been professionally cataloged and preserved. Located at 26 Wooster Street (between Grand and Canal Streets), the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art is open 12AM-6PM, Tuesday-Sunday
12-8PM on Thursday, and closed on Mondays and all major holidays. Admission to Leslie-Lohman is free and the museum gallery is fully wheelchair accessible.

 

IT’S HERE IT’S EVEN QUEERER

 

Collage of Images

The Pop Up is also a community partner of Riot Grrrl Ink, the largest queer label in the world.

For a more grassroots perspective on LGBTQ art, history and activism, check out the offerings of the Pop-Up Museum of Queer History. I’ve seen some amazing exhibitions at this museum, which pops up at various locations. Their website states, “The Pop-Up Museum of Queer History is a grassroots organization that transforms spaces into temporary installations dedicated to celebrating the rich, long, and largely unknown histories of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. We believe that our community – and especially our youth – deserve to know our history. If you don’t know you have a past, how can you believe you have a future?” Check out The Pop-Up Museum of Queer History’s Facebook page for current information.

 

NOW MORE THAN EVER

 

Peace Symbol

Peace Here Now

The Peace Museum NY is not quite yet a reality, at least not in a physical, bricks and mortar sense. But its stated mission, to use participatory “arts, community, public space, positivity, and joyful events to shift our global value system to one of love, compassion, generosity and inclusion, inspiring all to find peace in their own hearts in order to create, celebrate and share peace in our world, now,” is certainly a reality! The organization sponsors regular bike rides to places of peace and does, indeed inspire. Find the Peace Museum NY on its website and on Facebook, where new events are added all the time.

 

FEMINISM IS FOR EVERYONE

 

Civil Rights Activists

Civil Rights Activists

Geared toward global activism with a Black Feminist focus, the Museum of Women’s Resistance (MoWRe), according to its Facebook description, puts on “year-round exhibitions and programs that include historical and contemporary objects, as well as commissioned art, sculptures, textiles, and pottery. Video and sound stations provide selections from historical and contemporary interviews, literature, proverbs, prayers, folk tales, songs, and oral epics from the African continent as well as the African Diaspora. MoWRe has a special focus on promoting Transnational as well as Black Feminist histories and traditions, and is especially interested in promoting women’s demonstrated capacity to reach across chasms of race, class, sexual orientation, geography, and religion to mount resistance and build movements for social justice. Located at 279 Empire Blvd (between Rogers and Nostrand Avenues) in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, the Museum of Women’s Resistance is open 10:30AM-5:30PM Monday through Friday. Entrance fees are as follows: Adults, $7, Seniors & Students, $5, while children get in FREE.

 

LAST BUT NOT LEAST

 

Skeletons and Portraits

Exploring the intersections of death, beauty and that which falls between the cracks.

Of all places, the Morbid Anatomy Museum truly has something for everyone. You’ll find, of course, exhibits, lectures, a library – and a cafe. Just want a cup of coffee, hold the morbid? The cafe is open from 8AM – 8PM Monday-Friday, 10AM – 8PM on Saturday, and 10AM – 6PM on Sunday. The museum roasts their own pour-over blend which they call Black Gold. And, they use espresso roasted by the local roasting company, Variety.

The Morbid Anatomy Museum hosts the kind of temporary exhibitions that very few larger museums can produce; shows both large and small, drawing on private and public collections and calling on the scholarship and expertise of the greater Morbid Anatomy community. Their permanent collection houses a research library of over 1,000 books as well as artifacts such as memorial artworks, medical moulages, wax embryological models, natural history specimens, and a variety of uncanny artworks and artifacts from around the world.

The exhibition space & library are open from 12PM – 6PM, every day except Tuesday. Admission to the exhibition & library is $12. Seniors & students are $10, and children 12 and under are free. The store is open from 12PM – 8PM Monday-Saturday and 12PM – 6PM on Sunday.

We at Local Expeditions have a tour in Brooklyn’s Gowanus neighborhood that stops at the Museum of Morbid Anatomy. Check out our sneak-peek promo of GOWANUS? YES, GO ON US!

Do you dig a museum on the down low in NYC you’d like to share with folks who like to #DoWhatLocalsDo? Please tell us: localexpeditions@gmail.com and we will share your favorite museum on social media!

Bikes on the Sidwalk

Bike Riding Tips for Tourists in NYC

Times have changed. Riding a bike in NYC today is WAY different than it was 20 years ago. So if you are a hesitant tourist desiring a bike ride, hesitate not. As long as you are willing to follow the traffic rules and have some previous bike riding experience in another city, please #DoWhatLocalsDo and join us Big Apple cyclists!

Kid on a bicycle

Getting Ready to Sneak a Slurpee

I’ve been riding a bike for fun since I was a kid – going down a dirt path alongside the ditch that ran for miles in the Colorado suburb of my childhood on hot summer days to sneak off to the 7-11 for a Slurpee. And for a collective 30+ years in my adult life, I’ve used my bike a great deal for commuting. But when I moved to NYC two decades ago, this one-of-a-kind urban jungle presented a huge bike riding learning curve that not only took skill, but a whole lot of nerve!

Bicyclist in Traffic

Who would do that?

Riding in a bicycle lane in the early 90’s was practically unheard of – as there were few, if any to be found in the five boroughs. So, riding down a street, inches away from fast-moving vehicles was par for the course. I was lucky to have a friend who was a bicycle messenger and she showed me how to hold my own in traffic, with it, or against it.

Nowadays, I would never dream of riding against the traffic, nor do I need to as NYC is filled with bicycle lanes, many of which are strictly reserved for cyclists and which have their own unique traffic lights.

Number one tip: Get the Free NYC Bike Map

Free NYC Bike Map

For real, it’s free.

The totally amazing Free NYC Bike Map is available in many locations including nearly every bicycle store and public library in the city. The legend shows you greenways, protected bicycle paths, bicycle lanes, shared lanes and suggested routes (when no bicycle lane is available). You will see from this map you can bike to just about anywhere, including all the way to Coney Island. You can enjoy laps around the enormous (Central and Prospect) parks as well as dozens of little parks found everywhere. You can ride from the southern most tip to the northern most tip of Manhattan along the Hudson River! You can ride all the way out to Corona-Flushing Meadows Park in Queens, and if you wear yourself out, take your bike on the subway to come home.

Need a Bike for Days on End?

If you plan on taking multiple all-day bike rides, having a weekly rental would be ideal. Check out this Yelp page, which lists many rentals in interesting parts of the city beyond the “tourist trap” options.

Bike Sharing
NYC Citibike Map

They’re everywhere.

Looking for something hassle free for quick rides? Try our NYC CitiBike program! This is bike share program has 8,000 bikes available spread out over 500 docking stations across Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and Jersey City. It’s designed for short trips with convenience and affordability in mind. A one-day pass is $12 and a 3-day pass is $24. If you’ve never used a bike share program before, take our Local Expeditions Citibike DUMBO tour where we walk you through the Citibike process, lead you on an amazing ride over NYC’s TWO greatest bridges (Manhattan and Brooklyn) AND give you a walking tour in DUMBO, Brooklyn. (Check out a short video about Citibike DUMBO from our Local Expeditions founder, Nancy Blaine.)

Mainstream Touristy Convenience

Tourists on Bikes

Traveling in a Pack.

Pinched for time? You will find at Columbus Circle several businesses renting bikes by the hour that you can take for a spin in Central Park. And, the Central Park Conservancy recommends BikeRent NYC, which operates locations at the southwest and southeast corners of Central Park.

Infamous Do’s and Don’t’s

 

Green Light and Red Light

DO

~Wear a helmet.

~Follow the traffic laws and rules.

~Beware of pedestrians around Macy’s, Times Square and Columbus Circle who cavalierly walk in the bike lanes – despite the sidewalk available for their use! (Most bike rentals, including Citibikes have bells so you can ding them a warning.)

~Beware of car and cabs that are pulled over to let a passenger out – sometimes people will open their door right into the bike lane without looking.

~Lock up your bike if you are walking away from it, even for a few minutes. (And if you have a long-term rental, it’s best practice to bring it inside with you overnight.)

~Be aware of your surroundings and you will have fun!

DON’T

~Ever ride the wrong way on a one-way bike lane.

~Ever ignore any of the traffic rules. Just because you are on a bike doesn’t mean you can run stop signs or red lights. (I’ve had a bicycle accident two times in 20 years – and it was with another cyclist crossing against a red light. Luckily no one was hurt!)

~Ride at night without lights – a white one on the front and a red one on the back. (Citibikes have built in back lights!)

FINALLY

While you are riding a bike in NYC, please enjoy the green, growing and sustainable bike friendly culture we developed with an environmental conscious in mind. And visit us again on our Local Expeditions blog for ongoing tips for visitors and local alike!

Secret Restaurants in NYC

Secret Restaurants in NYC

Looking for indescribably delicious eats and drinks? We’ve got the inside scoop on four of our very own favorites that we are willing to share. But, shhh, keep this information under your hat, as these restaurants are already garnering a lot of interest and attention. So #DoWhatLocalsDo and take the opportunity to visit them before they blow up!

Pho Bo, Pho Ga, Pho Chay and MORE is waiting for you in Bushwick.
Soup, Salad and Beverage

Yes, it tastes as good as it looks.

Michelin Guide Recommended, Zagat rated and Trip Advisor favorite, Falansai Vietnamese Kitchen in Bushwick is on a somewhat hard-to-locate corner in between the Morgan and Jefferson L train stops. But don’t let that stop you! With a comfortable minimalist interior that is a respite in cooler weather, the establishment’s outdoor seating is a wondrous setting. Boasting a gorgeous Lilly pond, colorful murals and a range of seating options spotlighted with strings of twinkle lights, when the sun goes down and the garden lights up, the actions at this original Brooklyn eatery are just beginning! And, an extra hot tip: they have an amazing happy hour!

Get it Local: Grilled Clawhammer Pork Sausage at Freemans.
Grilled Clawhammer Pork Sausage

Freemans Photography by Daniel Krieger, 2015

The delightful, upscale Freemans Restaurant is hidden inside an alleyway (Freemans Alley!) on the Lower East Side of Manhattan off Rivington Street between Chrystie and the Bowery. Freemans uses unexpected ingredients such as nettles on a fresh fish dish, wild mushrooms in a vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie and farro in seasonal salad. The bar at Freeman’s is lively and the eponymous Freeman’s Cocktail – with Rye, simple syrup, pomegranate molasses, lemon juice, house orange bitters – is many locals’ choice.

Visit with the chef while you eat.
Chef in kitchen

He just bought the food at market the same day!

Yemeni, Egyptian or general Middle Eastern, some locals debate it, but in any case Kebab Cafe in Astoria is a tiny hidden gem. Lacking the charm of Freemans or Falansai, the excellent and inspired food makes up for that. Squeezed into the small restaurant space, customers partake in Chef-Owner Ali’s creations, often consisting of a daily special made of whatever ingredients are market fresh along with all kinds of kabobs, lamb in every configuration, those standbys, babaganush and hummus, and an outstanding mouthwatering mixed plate. The Kabob House has some vegetarian fare, but is not for feint-hearted eaters as organ meats are on the menu. However, for the more adventurous, this is just the place to sit down and go with the flow while visiting Queens.

Hand-pressed tortillas crafted with heirloom corn.
Margarita in Mexican Restaurant

It’s the Margarita de Remolacha!

Gran Electrica has a bar with the most original flavored Margarita’s in town – habanero-infused, red beet, pineapple, cucumber and other flavors. The intimate, minimalist dining space hosts an array of guests and the service is impeccable. Sitting on Front Street in DUMBO, Gran Electrica is a bit hard to find via subway, but you can easily walk there from Brooklyn Heights, take the B25 bus to the Front & York stop, just steps away from the restaurant, or sit down to dinner after one of our tours that end in DUMBO.

We hope you enjoy all of these secret restaurants in NYC!

New York City's Alt Art Scene

New York City’s Alt Art Scene

If you are interested in the alternative art scene, there are art galleries galore in New York City, but which ones are the most unique? Check out our guide to the four most interesting galleries with amazing exhibitions.

Amy Li in the Button Shop Gallery

Amy Li has it all in a button shop.

According to a Public Radio International piece about Amy Li Projects, “Amy Li uses the front space of her father’s 30-year-old button shop in Manhattan’s Chinatown as a place to showcase local artwork. The shared space has helped both Amy and her father — button customers are intrigued by the artwork, and Amy helps her father translate from Chinese to English.” Li curates popular shows with both emerging and established artists, many from the downtown New York City arts scene, but also newer entrants into the NYC art world such as painter Erin Smith from Australia. Amy Li Projects is located in Chinatown at 166 Mott Street (between Broome & Grand) and is open Weds-Sun 12-6pm.

Fountain House Gallery Logo

Challenge the stigma that surrounds mental illness.

The Fountain House Gallery is located in Hell’s Kitchen at 702 9th Avenue (at 48th Street) and is open Tues-Sat 11am-7pm and from 1-5pm on Sundays. The Fountain House Gallery, described as, “the premier venue in New York City representing artists with mental illness. The gallery sells original artworks and collaborates with a wide network of artists, curators, and cultural institutions. Embracing artists who are emerging or established, trained or self-taught, Fountain House Gallery cultivates artistic growth and makes a vital contribution to the New York arts community.” Fountain House Gallery succeeds in its mission to “provide an environment for artists living and working with mental illness to pursue their personal visions and to challenge the stigma that surrounds mental illness.” The gallery’s exhibitions show artwork that is delightful, hopeful, visceral, often challenging, and always very real.

Judith Braun and Joeseph A. Gross

Artist Judith Braun with gallerist Joseph A. Gross at Simuvac Projects.

Simuvac Projects, which is “committed to exhibiting works of diverse media by emerging and established artists,” is a relative newcomer to the New York art scene via Greenpoint, Brooklyn. The gallery has had some notable exhibitions. Recently Ivy Haldemen was featured at Simuvac and garnered quite a bit of publicity for her hot dog-inspired paintings. Simuvac Projects is located at 99 Norman Ave, right off the Nassau stop of the G train. Hours for the gallery are Wed-Sat 11am-6pm and 12-6pm on Sundays.

Violet's Cafe Art Gallery

No words to describe…

We found out about Violet’s Cafe, located at 135 Huntington Street in the Carroll Gardens neighborhood of Brooklyn, from an article in the New York Times. It’s an Art Gallery. No, a Living Room. O.K., Both, tipped us off about this cool place and we think the gallery’s approach is fabulous. See the gallery’s website for more information about current exhibitions.

Emily Weiner in her gallery

Emily Weiner has an alt gallery in her Brooklyn home!

Have you found a unique gallery on your travels in the 5 boroughs? Please Email us at localexpeditions@gmail.com and will spread the word about NYC’s alt art scene!

Carved Pumpkins

Halloween Events in NYC

We’ve got a roundup of some of the best ways to get your fun on at these Halloween events in NYC during October 2016!

SCARE ME BOO!

Clown

Who are you kidding?

If you want to be scared shitless, go to Blood Manor! I saw a creepy clown from the place handing out postcards and was already feeling faint. Blood Manor, which bills itself as “New York City’s Premier Haunted Attraction,” really is!

Another scary attraction in the Big Apple is the New York Haunted Hayride. It looks terrifying on the subway posters, but then I don’t even like the mildest of scary movies. Check it out for yourself and please report back.

FAMILY AND PET FRIENDLY

Kill! Kill! Kill!

Call me Freddy

The Central Park Halloween Parade and Pumpkin Flotilla is a free event on the afternoon/evening of October 30th at the Harlem Meer. Ghost stories, live music, pumpkin carving (and, of course, floating) will abound. This is a great event for the entire family.

Looking for a relaxed, yet super fun parade? Check out the Park Slope Halloween Parade. This family-friendly and Brooklyn-centric event is a blast! I took a friend from London last year and she wants to come back again specifically for this event!

The Tompkins Square Halloween Dog Parade is good clean fun that is #BetterWithPets! Bring your canine pals to the East Village on Saturday, October 22nd from Noon to 3PM for this “barkin’ mad” parade.

LGBTQ’ish HALLOWEEN CELEBRATIONS

Puppet Skeletons

Be your true self

The Village Halloween Parade began in 1974. Artists created giant puppets, drag artists paraded in their most fabulous outfits and bands joined in the procession…all sharing the spotlight with any bystander who wanted to join in. Since then, this parade has been co-opted by apparently, EVERYONE and is now the world’s largest Halloween parade, right here in NYC. A tradition that has remained constant in this parade is: anything goes.

Are you into a wax museum aesthetic? On October 29th, Madame Tussauds is hosting a Halloween mixer for the LGBT community and all others are also welcome! There will be dancing, a costume contest, Marvel Comic’s 4-D Superhero Thrill Ride and more!

HAUNTED HISTORY

Ancient Hauntings

Old Ghosts

You can get the inside scoop on the haunted history of the West Village from one of our very own on our Special Halloween Expedition: The Haunted Village, scheduled every day from October 23rd to October 30th at 7PM. New York has existed as a major metropolis for nearly 400 years. Millions of souls have lived and died here, buildings have been built and rebuilt–neighborhoods have changed. But when we walk around today, we see only the living; all 8.5 million of them. We are mostly unaware of the history of the streets we walk on and the buildings we reside in, dine in and visit.

Wishing everyone a ton of fun at any and all of these Halloween events in NYC!